27th Jun 2019

EU justifies taking Libyan defector off sanctions list

  • Koussa, last seen being hosted by the Qatari royal family in Doha (Photo: Greek Prime Minister's office)

The EU has said it was right to take former Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa off a sanctions list because he had defected to the anti-Gaddafi side.

A spokesman for EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton told EUobserver on Friday (15 April) "it was felt that he no longer fulfilled the criteria for sanctions after defecting." Asked if the purpose of the sanctions was to punish people for wrongdoing or to alter the behaviour of Gaddafi loyalists, he added "It was to put pressure on the regime primarily."

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A spokesman for the British foreign ministry told UK press on Thursday: "Sanctions are introduced to invoke behavioural change and as Moussa Koussa has chosen to leave the regime, he is no longer sanctioned in this way."

Jutsifying its decision to absolve Koussa from US punitive measures last week, treasury official David S. Cohen wrote in his blog: "Koussa's defection and the subsequent lifting of sanctions against him should encourage others within the Libyan government to make similar decisions to abandon the Gaddafi regime."

The EU decision was made unanimously at ambassador-level last Thursday.

Foreign ministers rubber stamped the move without debate or public remarks at a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday. Koussa became legally able to once again travel inside the Union and take money from any bank accounts he has in Europe from Thursday morning onward.

Koussa was on Thursday in Doha to talk with leaders of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion. It is unclear if he will return to the UK, where he risks prosecution for his alleged part in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Speaking on the BBC panel show Question Time on Thursday night, leading Scottish politician Alex Salmond said: "If there was any evidence [on Lockerbie] I have absolutely no doubt he'd have been arrested and transported back to Scotland."

Salmond two years ago drew criticism for his part in freeing convicted Lockerbie bomber and Gaddafi ally Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi in a suspected oil-for-prisoners deal.

For his part, Tory MP Robert Halfon on Thursday said Koussa should have been sent to face charges of crimes against humanity at the international court in the Hague.

The original EU sanctions notice said he was on the list because he was "Implicated in repressive actions against demonstrators" amid suspicion that he co-plotted with Gaddafi to systematically kill civilians. The former intelligence chief and Gaddafi right-hand-man earned himself the name 'merchant of death' during his career in Libya.

A contact in the PR industry last week told EUobserver Koussa was seeking to hire a PR firm in Europe to improve his image.

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